Suzie and Joey Lamonte
Suzie Lamonte was the third-generation proprietor of Middendorf’s Restaurant until she and her husband, Joey, sold it in 2007. Suzie’s grandmother, Josie, opened what would become the area’s premier seafood destination in 1934 with her third husband, Louis Middendorf, a traveling salesman. Suzie’s father, Richard Smith (Louis Middendorf’s stepson), was not an obvious heir. He went to military school in Mississippi and then stayed in the service as a young man. He and his wife, Helen, raised their two daughters primarily in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie until the family restaurant ultimately did beckon him. Suzie was thirteen years old when the family moved across the lake to Manchac. She took to the restaurant business almost immediately and never looked back, even continuing to work full-time at Middendorf’s during four years of college. Joey was Suzie’s senior prom date, and he committed fully to the restaurant when they married a few years later. While they both worked every possible position during their three-plus decades running Middendorf’s together, Joey primarily oversaw their male employees and Suzie the female ones; Joey worked the boiling pots and made the sauces (tartar, remoulade, cocktail), while Suzie took charge of the gumbo and the stuffed crab. They both hand-cut the thin catfish that has been Middendorf’s signature since the very beginning—Suzie suspects her grandmother took inspiration for the catfish from the smoked salmon slicing stations that banquets would have featured at the fine hotels where Josie worked as a young woman. As devoted as the Lamontes were to Middendorf’s, only ever taking vacations in December when business was slowest, they have embraced retirement fully. “Every day flies by,” Joey says. “The day is never boring, and we’re living in our home for the first time, actually. We’re living in our house. We’re actually wearing it out.” They do miss the catfish, though.